What Parents Need to Know: The Link Between Bullying and Trauma
Bullying is a form of violence that can be physical, verbal, or social. These acts of violence don’t only occur in person; they also happen today in the form of cyberbullying.
Bullying can have a lasting impact on everyone involved. In fact, bullying is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Research has shown that children reporting more ACEs may be more likely to exhibit bullying behavior. ACEs can also have long lasting negative effects on a person’s development, the way they interact with others, and how they perform in school.
People who experience PTSD as a result of bullying can have many of the same symptoms as others experiencing PTSD for other reasons. These symptoms can include:
- Feeling on edge
- Being easily startled
- Experiencing nightmares
- Having flashbacks to the traumatic experience
- Having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Having intrusive, scary thoughts
- Blaming yourself for what happened
- Feeling guilty
- Having angry outbursts
- Having trouble concentrating
- Avoiding situations that trigger memories of the event
Children often experience PTSD from bullying differently depending on their age. Young children may experience more separation anxiety. School aged kids might have trouble concentrating in school. Teens may experience depression or practice self-harm.
Thankfully, there are things that parents and other trusted adults can do to help their children and teens through a bullying experience. Some of these approaches are:
- Ensure that the child or teen is safe and seek ways to prevent future bullying experiences
- Talk through what happened and why to clear up any misconceptions about the child’s role in the incident
- Teach stress management and relaxation techniques to help them cope
- Know the school policies for handling bullying, as well as state and federal laws that are in place to protect your child
In some instances, children and teenagers may need professional help to treat stress or PTSD from bullying. Therapy in these instances can be effective, but the bullying itself needs to end and be prevented from continuing. Preventing bullying is a group effort, potentially involving parents or guardians, teachers, administrators, and community. In extreme circumstances, law enforcement may also need to be involved.
We know that bullying can have long-lasting effects on a child or teen’s self esteem and mental health. Learning now how you can help your child through an experience of this sort can benefit them for years to come. Be vigilant in watching for signs of bullying and symptoms of PTSD that may be caused by bullying incidents. Know who can assist you in your efforts to help your child through this difficult time. We might not be able to control every situation our child is in, but we can be prepared to be their biggest ally and support in hard times.